Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Violence continues in Gaza despite ceasefire

From The Australian, December 18, 2006, by AFP ...

EXCHANGES of automatic gunfire have continued late into the night in Gaza City today despite armed Palestinian groups, including Hamas and Fatah, earlier agreeing on a ceasefire.

Hamas and Fatah agreed on a ceasefire after a day of violence that claimed three lives following Hamas's rejection of early elections called by president Mahmoud Abbas. Despite the accord, exchanges of gunfire continued late into the night in the Rimal area of Gaza City near Shifa hospital, an AFP journalist reported.

“There is an agreement between all armed Palestinian groups for a ceasefire and to end the violence,” Ibrahim Abu Najja, the head of a high-level committee that includes all the groups, told AFP. The accord was confirmed by Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan, who told AFP that the ceasefire pact also stipulates that “armed men must stop circulating on the streets”.

....But the ceasefire got of to an inauspicious start, with Fatah boycotting a news conference with Hamas which was called to announce the ceasefire, alleging violations. “There was indeed a ceasefire accord with Hamas, but we refuse to participate in the press conference with them convened to announce it, because in so doing we want to protest against violations to the accord,” said Tawfik Abu Hussa, spokesman for Fatah and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas. Hussa cited the kidnapping and killing today in Gaza of a colonel - and a member of Fatah - in the national security services. He also pointed to a mortar attack on the presidential offices of Abbas.

Abbas's call for early elections set off fears that the bitter power struggle between Hamas - the Islamist movement that took power in March after a shock election win - and the president's own Fatah faction could ignite a civil war.

...and from DEBKAfile, December 18, 2006, 1:46 PM (GMT+02:00) ...

Young Palestinian boy injured in exchange of fire in central Gaza City Monday after truce announcement

Gunfire continued Monday morning outside Fatah leaders Abbas and Dahlan’s residences.
Sunday night, Hamas gunmen snatched and shot dead the key Fatah intelligence officer Col. Adnan Rahmani in Sejaya. DEBKAfile reports Col. Rahmani was a member of Gaza's Palestinian preventive security agency commanded by Rashid Abu Shbak and Samir Mashrawi, two of Mahmoud Abbas’ and Mohammed Dahlan’s Fatah mainstays in Gaza.

After 3 Palestinians were killed and 20 injured, Generals Muhammed Ibrahim and Haron Shehata, heads of the Egyptian mission in Gaza, sought to impose a truce in Hamas-Fatah violence on Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya. They warned him that if he demurred, Hamas officials would not be allowed to use Cairo international airport for their travels.

DEBKAfile reports that ... [the ceasefire] is unlikely to hold given the irreconcilable differences between the factions over Abbas' decision to call early Palestinian presidential and parliamentary elections. Hamas is determined to resist fresh elections by force while rejecting talks on a unity government.

The murder of the intelligence colonel Sunday occurred after members of his service swept through six Palestinian ministerial offices smashing computers, furniture, telephones and archives to prepare the way for Abbas to dissolve the Hamas government ahead of an early election.

Sunday also saw large-scale defections of Fatah adherents to Hamas ranks - including groups of al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorists, the Abu Rish Brigades of Khan Younes and all three armed factions organized in the umbrella Popular Resistance Committees. They were lured by a cash infusion from high PLO official Farouk Kadoumi who has changed sides and is working in Damascus with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal to unseat Mahmoud Abbas.

Earlier Sunday, two Palestinians were killed, at least six injured in violent incidents which included Hamas mortar attacks on Mahmoud Abbas’ Gaza residence, a shooting attack on Hamas foreign minister Mahmoud a-Zahar’s convoy and an RPG, mortar and grenade assault on the presidential guard Force 17 camp at the former Netzarim settlement in S, Gaza.

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